The Strudlhofstiege or Melzer and the depth of the years

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The Strudlhofstiege in Vienna
The poem that precedes the novel on a board in the middle of the Strudlhofstiege

"The Strudlhofstiege or Melzer and the Depth of the Years" is a 1951 novel by the Austrian writer Heimito von Doderer .

The Strudlhofstiege is Doderer's best-known and most popular book and is considered one of the great works of Austrian literature of the 20th century. Doderer himself designed the Strudlhofstiege as a "ramp" to his main work, the even more extensive novel The Demons (published 1956).


"It is all the more a work of storytelling, the less one can give an idea of ​​it through a synopsis."

- Heimito von Doderer

The Strudlhofstiege is a social and urban novel about Vienna in the period 1923–1925 with flashbacks mainly to the summers of 1910 and 1911. The plot consists of a multitude of cleverly intertwined narrative strands, broken up by leaps in time, difficult to grasp at first reading. The book is held together by an astonishing unity of the place : most of the scenes take place in a narrowly limited space within the 9th district of Vienna, Alsergrund , between Althanplatz (today Julius-Tandler-Platz) at Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof (opposite in the book Viennese custom called “Böhmischer Bahnhof”) and the Schottentor ; decisive encounters take place on the Strudlhofstiege , which connects Liechtensteinstrasse with the higher Waisenhausgasse (since 1913 Boltzmanngasse ), the seat of the kuk consular academy . Flashbacks and memories lead to the area of ​​the Rax (Prein, Reichenau ), to Vienna's suburbs and various cities of the Danube monarchy (including Bosnia ).

Those who move in this room are predominantly members of the upper middle class, some with a noble background. The main characters are Melzer , named in the subtitle , an infantry lieutenant stationed in Bosnia on summer vacation in 1910/1911, retired as a major after the war and given the post of councilor in the state tobacco control department , as well as René (von) Stangeler , high school graduate in 1911 , after military service in 1925 Captivity of newly graduated historians.

Others, who at times could also be mistaken for main characters, soon step back, only to reappear hundreds of pages later: for example Mary K. , whose tram accident announced in the first sentence forms a bracket around the entire book; René's sister Etelka Grauermann , whose life story is told in perspective of her suicide; Grete Siebenschein , trained pianist, who survived the immediate post-war period alone in Oslo (Doderer was an occupation soldier in Norway during World War II) and who was engaged to Réné on her return in 1923; Editha Pastré , in 1911 desperately hunting men, in 1923 divorced wife Schlinger .

A main strand of the novel is the development of Melzer , who as a soldier, although often acting independently during the war - what else could he do? - for a long time did not have an independent way of existing at all . A look back at the summer of 1910 and 1911 shows this: The engagement to Mary does not materialize because he does not even begin to think ahead and consider the consequence of having to quit the service (unspoken: Mary is therefore Jewish). He is only spared a connection with Editha because he does not recognize the uniqueness of the opportunity presented. His hopeless love for Asta Stangeler remains unspoken. Only in 1925 will he get everything right at crucial moments.

Outwardly, the common denominator of the people involved is the historical break of the First World War , which they experience in various ways, deal with or repress as trauma (whereby Doderer with extreme precision describes the civilizational circumstances, from gas light to electric lamp, from cab to bus, from the kk Tobacco Directorate for the Austrian Tobacco Directorate with its cigarette and cigar brands, the renaming of streets, the new construction and demolition of buildings without undermining an anachronism ); the inner common denominator of most people, on the other hand, is a Schnitzler 's brokenness and fragility of the characters, which leads to extreme danger, as if it were a race to death - in which Etelka arrives first.

Overarching storylines fill only the smallest part of the book. Far more characteristic are intertwined little stories: the flying betrothal of Grete Siebenschein and how René learns from his predecessor EP to live without braces; a bear hunt in Bosnia; a scandal in the bathroom - where, horribile dictu, there was a kiss (!).

Dialogues and short scenes that bring social realities to mind are perhaps even more characteristic: high-pitched conversations by young consular academics , a dinner under the overwhelming chairmanship of father Stangeler , how René is addressed by a popular girl, how Etelka's future fiancé is secretly Visiting the caretaker is rewarded.


“When Mary K's husband was still alive, his name was Oskar, and she herself was walking on two very beautiful legs (the one on the right hit the tram above her knee on September 21, 1925, not far from her apartment), a certain Doctor Negria appeared up, a young Romanian doctor who trained here in Vienna at the famous faculty and did his years in the general hospital . There have always been such Romanians and Bulgarians in Vienna, mostly around the university or the music academy . One was used to her: her way of speaking, which increasingly prevailed with the Austrian, her thick swirls of hair over her forehead, her habit of always living in the best residential areas, because all these young gentlemen from Bucharest or Sofia were or had wealthy wealthy fathers. They remained by all means strangers (who were constantly receiving enormous parcels with their national delicacies from their homeland), not as consolidated alien as the North Germans, but more of a local institution, so to speak, but still 'Balkan' because they too have the specifics of speaking tone never quite lost. Ladies in Vienna who were thinking of renting out one or two rooms in their apartment or villa were looking for a 'Bulgarian or Romanian student' and were then recommended to one another by them. Because there was a connational connection in numerous cafés around the university or around the clinics. "

The first paragraph of the book, quoted in full, already shows a lot of what defines the style of the book: A single sentence drives the action forward; there are five purely observational sentences. Such considerations actually make up the main part of the approximately 900 pages of the Strudlhofstiege , they make up the real charm of the book and at the same time give it its value as a contemporary document.

Characteristic of Doderer's style are also insertions within insertions (the remark about the North Germans), correspondingly the sometimes quite complex sentence structure, the great precision ("were wealthy or had wealthy fathers" - that is not the same!), The natural inclusion of humanistic educational material - Latin and Greek quotations in the original, Latinized word formations such as “connational” -, the extremely original use of adjectives (“consolidated foreign”).

The narrative style is characterized by a loving, ironic distance to the characters and their plot episodes, in which, however, a perfect balance is kept between philosophical reflections and subtle humor that shines again and again.

In the text, depending on the context, North German, South German and Austrian language variants and words appear, whereby the Austrianzisms comprise vocabulary and grammar from the high-level language to the most subtle ramifications of the Viennese dialects . The vertical stratification of the language components is analogous to the geographic one. The sociolects are precisely differentiated, also in mimicry-like descriptions of persons : the language of the bourgeoisie, the Viennese official German, the puffy deflagration of adolescent adolescents, the everyday language of common people, the Austro-Hungarian military German . Some persistent use of colloquial or dialectal constructions (the comparative is always connected with “like” instead of “as” - “more beautiful like ...”) can disturb language purists. Doderer consistently replaces the word “rear” with the Austrian-official German prüd preferred “rear” (which Karl Kraus made fun of: if you say “rear”, you feel caught looking back).

Another aspect is not only the autobiographical (see below), but also a lot of autoreferentials in the extensive contemporary painting within Doderer's complete works. For example, the Amtsrat Zihal appears several times as a minor character, the hero of the novel The Enlightened Windows , from which Doderer derives the adjective zihaloid . Conversely, the Strudlhofstiege is cited here and there hidden in the later novel The Slunj Waterfalls . The connection between the two consecutive novels The Strudlhofstiege and The Demons is naturally particularly close .

Related to The Demons

Around 30 characters also appear in Doderer's later work The Demons , although the main characters often become secondary characters or vice versa. The demons takes place in 1926/1927, i.e. immediately after the main time shift of the Strudlhofstiege . However, it is not a sequel. Both books can be read independently and in any order. Some marginal notes only make sense after you have read the other book, but this even applies to each book individually: Since hardly any reader can remember all the people and all the hints on the first reading, a lot becomes clear only the second reading.

The fabric of different storylines, the location in Vienna and of course Doderer's style are similar in both books. One big difference is that very concrete historical events - including some real people - are incorporated into The Demons . Another is that The Demons are the work of various fictional narrators ( Geyrenhoff , René Stangeler , Kajetan von Schlaggenberg - all known from Die Strudlhofstiege ) and it is very elaborately discussed who has learned what and how. In Die Strudlhofstiege , however, the first-person narrator only appears in a few places. After all, in Die Strudlhofstiege the vast majority of the characters, with the emphatic exception of Editha Pastré , are introduced as likeable, while in The Demons negative characterizations are frequent and often in drastic, degrading words.

Autobiographical background

Doderer has distributed aspects of his personality and life story to several characters in The Strudlhofstiege and The Demons : Stangeler , Geyrenhoff , and perhaps to some extent also Melzer and Kajetan von Schlaggenberg . The most obvious (until the end of the name) is the autobiographical reference to René von Stangeler  : aristocratic descent, father of a rich railroad engineer, numerous siblings, military service, Russian prisoner of war, study of history. Doderer also used "René Stangeler" as a pseudonym at times .

At one point we learn that the first-person narrator was in Oslo in April 1945 - like Doderer, who was reactivated as a former Austrian officer in World War II and was most recently stationed in Oslo.

Reception, processing

The novel was hailed as an important work immediately after its publication and made Doderer known in one fell swoop.

In 1982, the ORF and the production company Satel Film made a film under the title Melzer or The Depth of the Years . In 1989 a TV series was filmed and broadcast about this material. In 2007 ORF and NDR Kultur produced a three-part radio version by Helmut Peschina (adaptation) and Robert Matejka (direction), which was published on 4 CDs by Der Hörverlag in 2008. In 2007/08, the Wiener Schauspielhaus produced a twelve-part theater series on the novel with four actors and changing directors. Novel scenes were performed in 2009 on the occasion of the Reichenau Festival in the Südbahnhotel am Semmering and recorded by ORF .

Individual evidence

  1. dtv edition p. 85
  2. see: [1]
  3. At the express train speed over the Strudlhofstiege. Views on a novel dramatization at the Schauspielhaus Wien. In: Stefan Winterstein (Ed.): "He only read this one book". Studies on Heimito von Doderer's "The Enlightened Windows" (Writings of the Heimito von Doderer Society; 5). Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2009, pp. 437–463.
  4. ^ Südbahnhotel: "Strudlhofstiege" without strudel dough in Die Presse of July 7, 2009, accessed on December 8
  5. “Strudlhofstiege” as a holiday matinee on December 8th in ORF 2 on OTS from December 1st, 2009, accessed on December 8th, 2009

Further information


Heimito von Doderer: The Strudlhofstiege or Melzer and the depth of the years. Novel .

  • Biederstein, Munich 1951, several new editions (around 1953, 1969, 1973 and 1985)
  • Luckmann, Vienna 1951, 1958
  • Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1966, regular new editions, most recently under ISBN 978-3-423-01254-6
  • Donauland, Vienna 1967, 1985
  • Deutscher Bücherbund, Stuttgart and Munich 1987
  • Beck, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-39896-0
  • Bertelsmann Club, Rheda-Wiedenbrück 1996
  • With a topographical appendix by Stefan Winterstein and an afterword by Daniel Kehlmann . Beck, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-65555-5
  • Audiobook, unabridged reading with Peter Simonischek , Der Audio Verlag, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7424-0229-5


La scalinata (Italian, 1964), Schody albo Melzer i głębia lat (Polish, 1979), Las escaleras de Strudlhof (Castilian, 1981), Melcer i mădrostta na godinite (Bulgarian, 1984), Strudlhofské schody alebo Melzer a hlbina rokov (Slovak , 1990), A Strudlhof-lépcső (Hungarian, 1994), Strudlhofovo stopnišče ali Melzer in globina let (Slovenian, 1994), Strudlhofi trepp ehk Melzer ja aastate sügavus (Estonian, 2008), De Strudlhoftrappen of Melzer en de diepte der jaren ( Dutch, 2008), Strudlhofstiege ili Melzer i dubina godina koje prolaze (Croatian, 2013/14)

Secondary literature

  • Roswitha Fischer: Studies on the genesis of the "Strudlhofstiege" Heimito von Doderers (Viennese works on German literature 5). Braumüller, Vienna and Stuttgart 1975, ISBN 3-7003-0086-7
  • Franz Hubmann: In the footsteps of Heimito von Doderer. A photographic-literary journey around the “Strudlhofstiege” in Vienna . Brandstätter, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-85447-649-3
  • Gerald Sommer: On the “sense of all metaphorics”. On the function of complex pictorial designs in Heimito from Doderer's novel “The Strudlhofstiege”, presented on the basis of an interpretation of the development of the characters Mary K. and Melzer . Lang, Frankfurt / M. 1994, ISBN 3-631-46506-8
  • Stefan Winterstein (Ed.): The Strudlhofstiege. Biography of a scene (writings of the Heimito von Doderer Society, special volume 3). Bibliophile Edition, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-9502052-9-9

Web links